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Oct 17, 2023

Common Back Injuries After a Fall  

a cyclist has fallen off their bike and landed on their back, they are wondering about common back injuries after a fall

A simple fall can lead to complications, such as chronic pain, mobility concerns, or more severe injury. That’s because there are numerous mechanisms in the back, including bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and the spinal cord itself, that must work together to provide the strong core of the body. A fall can cause damage to many of these structures. If you have a back injury from a fall, it’s critical to know what to do.

What to Do After a Fall On Your Back

If you fall on your back or fall and strain your back in any way, it’s critical to assess your pain and mobility at that moment. Don’t try to move if you’re experiencing any pain. If you’ve hit your head or feel any resistance when trying to move, request emergency medical care before moving.

Even if you’re able to get up and start moving, you may have injuries present that need to be addressed. Seek out an exam from a doctor to ensure there are no immediate injuries requiring care.

Symptoms to Look For After Fall

There are several symptoms to look for after a fall on the back that should not be ignored, as they can signal that you need additional treatment and support. Typically, if you feel pain that lingers for more than a few hours, you should seek out help. There are other symptoms to pay close attention to as well:

  • New tenderness or soreness
  • Pain that gets worse if you lift or bend
  • Increased pain when moving from a sitting to a standing position
  • Pain that radiates from one area into your arms or legs
  • Pain that comes and goes, especially over longer periods of time
  • Changes in your sexual function
  • Any instance in which you feel burning or pulsing in your back

Also note that if you have any bladder or bowel changes, numbness or weakness, or instability, that warrants a trip to the emergency room. You should also visit the ER if you have changes to your vision.

Common Lower Back Injuries From Fall

the biker holds their back in pain, looking at common lower back injuries after a fall

If you have lower back pain after a fall, you may experience a number of symptoms that can come and go. Typically, injuries to this area are often the result of:

  • A ruptured or herniated disc in your spinal column
  • Muscle or tendon strains, where the muscle has been pulled and stretches
  • Ligament sprains
  • Vertebral fractures
  • Pinched or otherwise damaged nerves
  • Trauma to the spinal cord
  • Soft tissue damage, including tears

Common Upper Back Injuries From Fall

It’s possible to have upper back injuries as well from a fall. These, like lower back injuries, require careful attention and often a trip to the doctor. Some types of upper back pain causes include:

  • Strains and sprains to the muscles, tendons, or ligaments
  • Herniated upper discs
  • Fractures of the bones in this area
  • Soft tissue damage
  • Whiplash

Also note that a fall can also cause injury to the neck and shoulders, which can create pain that radiates from these areas lower into the upper back. This, too, should be treated properly with medical care.

You Should See A Doctor If

There are many reasons to see a doctor if you have lower back pain or pain that comes and goes. Upper back pain should be treated with just as much care and attention if it is intense or limiting your movement.

The following are some instances that require seeing a doctor for your back pain. It is always better to see a doctor or physical therapist sooner rather than later when you have any lasting or lingering back pain.

These situations warrant a trip to the emergency room or your primary care doctor:

  • Headaches that do not improve
  • Tingling or numbness in any area of the body
  • Paralysis
  • Fever
  • Trouble or pain when urinating
  • Weight loss that is otherwise unexplained
  • Weakness
  • Loss of feeling
  • Difficulty breathing
lower half of a biker riding on pavement

Most of the time, the pain you have from a fall on your back should improve within a few days. If it lasts more than that, it may be beneficial to turn to your doctor for X-rays and treatment for any fractures or lasting damage.

Both upper and lower back pain can be treated with physical therapy if the problem relates to muscles, tendons, or ligaments. A physical therapist, even without a doctor’s recommendation, can help your body to function properly and build up muscle mass to overcome the damage from the fall. This may include exercises to help improve stretched and strained ligaments and tendons, too. If your pain doesn’t require immediate medical attention, reach out to a physical therapist for the treatment you need to recover.

At-Home Treatment For Minor Back Injuries

When you fall on your back, your priority should be to get medical care since there may be damage you cannot see or feel right away, especially if you fall from high. If you don’t seem to have any specific injuries, there are a few things you can do at home to encourage your body to heal properly.

  • Take a break from significant physical activity to allow your body to heal.
  • For muscle-related pain, the use of topical treatments can help to reduce pain while the area is healing.
  • Speak to your doctor about the use of over-the-counter pain medications for short-term relief.
  • Alternate hot and cold therapy to the impacted area, encouraging the muscle to heal.
  • Get exercise with the guidance of your physical therapist or trainer. Moving and stretching your back properly can encourage healing.

When pain lingers, see the doctor. If your pain is causing you to be immobile, you also need medical care.

Contact Our Team at Rock Valley Physical Therapy for Help

Any type of lingering back pain shouldn’t be ignored. Let the team at Rock Valley Physical Therapy offer help to you. Contact us now to set up a consultation to discuss your symptoms and to create a treatment plan. Our team knows what you’re up against, and we’re happy to create a treatment plan to get you back on track.